Rummanah Aasi
   Erica Lorraine Scheidt's debut novel, Uses for Boys, is not a book that everyone will like, but I think it is important to know about. With a deceiving book cover and synopsis, book is much more serious than it appears. This review is based on the advanced readers copy provided by the publisher via Netgalley (Thank you!).

Description: Anna remembers a time before boys, when she was little and everything made sense. When she and her mom were a family, just the two of them against the world. But now her mom is gone most of the time, chasing the next marriage, bringing home the next stepfather. Anna is left on her own—until she discovers that she can make boys her family. From Desmond to Joey, Todd to Sam, Anna learns that if you give boys what they want, you can get what you need. But the price is high—the other kids make fun of her; the girls call her a slut. Anna's new friend, Toy, seems to have found a way around the loneliness, but Toy has her own secrets that even Anna can't know.
   Then comes Sam. When Anna actually meets a boy who is more than just useful, whose family eats dinner together, laughs, and tells stories, the truth about love becomes clear. And she finally learns how it feels to have something to lose—and something to offer.

Review: Uses for Boys is a haunting, unflinching, dark, and honest portrayal of a young girl's silent call for help. Anna Bloom and her mother are everything to each other, for a limited time. Anna observes her mother falling for one man after the next, leaving young Anna alone for extended periods of time and marrying and divorcing in a vicious cycle. Without any parental or adult guidance and observing her mother's appalling behavior, Anna begins to understand what she seems to be missing can be solved with getting boy's attention. She starts to look to boys in order to define her own self-worth, and she mistakenly equates sex with love and intimacy.
  Anna loses her virginity at age 14, and by 16, she has dropped from school and moved in with Joey, a boy she feels who take care of her and she of him. Many readers have noted their levels of uneasiness while reading the book since it has a very strong sexual content, but I think that's the very point of the book. In Uses for Boys, sex is treated without any romantic notions but it's mechanical. For Anna, having sex is equivalent to a hug or even having a deeply shared discussion. There is desperation in Anna's need for sex and in her need to mold boyfriends into the family she never had. Her loneliness is palpable and she is without a doubt lost in every sense of the word.
  Anna's voice is very clear throughout the book. She wears her emotions like piece of clothing, which she is ready to take off at the drop of a hat. Our heart aches as Anna is abandoned again and again throughout the story. We can finally breathe a sigh of relief when she does finally find her first friend and a boy who seems to really take care of her.
  Scheidt could have easily spiraled into preachy territory many times in the book especially where teen pregnancy and sexual assault are brought up, but she never does. Though the issues are serious to us, readers, they don't hold importance in the novel because Anna either can't understand their significance nor has anyone to share her concerns with.
 Though short in pages, Uses for Boys is an emotionally exhausted but hopeful read. Scheidt's spare, honest and poetic debut offers up pretty images for some decidedly ugly situation. The prose seems to be more heavy on the lyrical side yet it doesn't detract much from Anna's journey which is unfortunately very common. Uses for Boys is a book that I think most readers would enjoy reading due to its frank discussion of teen sexuality, but I found it worthwhile and it gave me lots to think about. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy hard hitting realistic fiction.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong sexual content, explicit at times, throughout the novel. There is also a scene of sexual assault. Strong language as well as underage drinking and drug use are also found in the book. Recommended for mature teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: Tilt by Ellen Hopkins, Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr, Loose Girl by Kerry Cohen
8 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    I don't think this is the book for me Rummanah! I love that it makes you think, but I always struggle with characters like Anna because I just want to reach in and hug them so badly! My little heart doesn't deal well with stories like this where a character self-destructs, even if it ends well. Does it end well?

  2. I'm pretty sure I have this one somewhere hanging around. I don't think I realized it was so serious when I picked it up, but I that won't deter me from reading it. Just glad I know what it's really about before I read it. Good review for pointing out the reasons why it should be read.


  3. Candace Says:

    I think you said it very well. I pretty much felt exactly the same way as you. Its not an easy read, but definitely important.

  4. Wow, I've heard a little about this book but yours is definitely the first review I've paid attention to. This sounds fabulous. A hard read, but really interesting. Definitely will check it out.

  5. I just don't think I could read about mechanical sex like that... not without feeling frustrated and uncomfortable. Though I think it seems pretty clear that the author intended it that way and I'm glad you were able to appreciate the messages in this book. This isn't for me, but the range of reactions so far has been pretty interesting. :)

    Great review, Rummanah!

  6. Logically, I think I'd like Uses For Boys because of the way you've described it's written, but emotionally I think I'd get very annoyed Anna's behaviour (even if I know the reason behind it). I suppose I'll give it a try and see how it goes.

  7. I don't think I'm quite ready for such a painful, exhausting read, but I DO appreciate that it's out there. Real teens with real emotional traumas need to be in YA lit too, which makes this book pretty valuable.
    I AM however, curious about the lyrical prose (aren't I always?) so I might end up siffering through Anna's, well... suffering, just to see the writing.
    Great review!

  8. Lauren Says:

    I've heard such amazing things about Uses for Boys, that I bought it. I just need to get around to reading it. Anna sounds like a deeply troubled girl, and her story sounds harrowing but worthwhile. I'm glad the author isn't too preachy. I find that sometimes the characters' actions speak much louder than the voice behind them when it comes to delivering a message. This is such a beautiful review! I'm really looking forward to reading this now.

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